Several groups from the entertainment industry have teamed up with five major American Internet service providers to create something called the Copyright Alert System. The system aims to educate and dissuade consumers from participating in illegal methods of sharing copyrighted materials online.
It's a new effort by entertainment companies to keep people buying what they offer - something that's been threatened by digital technology.
The system includes some of the country's largest Internet providers - AT&T, Cablevision, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon - and will begin informing their customers "over the course of the next several days" how they will each participate in the alert system. The entertainment companies - makers of movies, music, TV shows and so forth - have banded together under the Center for Copyright Information (CCI for short). The CCI's content partnerships are with the Recording Industry Association of America, Motion Picture Association of America, the Independent Film and Television Alliance, and the American Association of Independent Music.
"Through the CAS, copyright owners send notices of alleged copyright infringement to participating Internet Service Providers…who then forward these notices to their Subscribers in the form of Copyright Alerts," says the Center for Copyright Information's website.
"Users will be sent a maximum of six Alerts with an increasing degree of seriousness. In general, there are two Educational Alerts, two 'Acknowledgement' Alerts that require a response from the Subscriber, and two 'Mitigation' Alerts that impose minor consequences to emphasize the seriousness of the problem."
In the "educational alerts," the system will also "provide links to authorized, legal ways for you to find that content," Jill Lesser, Executive Director of the CCI, said in an interview with onthemedia.org. "For us, it's about reaching the casual infringer, which is a large percentage of peer-to-peer piracy."
However, beyond the first several alerts, the system's "mitigation" steps could include slowing down users' download speeds, which has brought opposition from digital civil rights groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Just because content is copyrighted doesn't mean sharing it is illegal," said the EFF in a statement. It added, "We are disappointed if not surprised by the tenor of the CCI's approach to surveillance and education."
Lesser responded on "On the Media," "The reduction of speed, which one or more Internet service providers will be using at the mitigation measure, is, first of all, only 48 hours, which is far from termination." The Center for Copyright Information did not immediately respond when ABC News reached out for comment.
A spokesperson from Verizon told ABC News that their 6th alert will include a step that decreases offenders' download speeds to a "dial-up" rate (much like the old AOL and EarthLink speeds) for 48 hours. The full details of Verizon's implementation of the CAS will be released to their customers in the coming days.
Though the private partnership between the content groups and Internet service providers can create deterrents for customers trying to illegally obtain copyrighted materials, the alert system is not designed to go after those that wish to continue copyright infringement beyond their 6th alert. "We hope that by the time people get to alerts number 5 or 6, they will stop. Once they've been mitigated, they've received several alerts… We're just not going to send any more alerts, because they are not the kind of customer that we are going to reach with this program."